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Stephen Hofmeyr QC is a leading commercial barrister with a wide-ranging international commercial law practice.
He is described in the leading legal directories as “one of the commercial Bar’s best all round counsel”with a “keen eye for detail”, “a heavyweight in this field” widely regarded as “one of the nicest insurance silks at the Bar” and one who “fights his corner very hard”. He is very much a “team player”, operates an informal “hands-on” approach and is very accessible.
His relatively unique combination of legal and accounting qualifications has equipped him to specialise in all aspects of commercial law and make him particularly suited to complex disputes.
With a strong sectoral focus across a wide range of practice areas, Stephen’s expertise in commercial law ranges from complex commercial contract disputes, to related company law claims, both for individuals and corporate clients, in particular, shareholder disputes and claims against directors.
Stephen Hofmeyr QC’s substantial diet of work includes key areas of practice for chambers, as mentioned above, as well as professional negligence disputes. His transport sector experience encompasses, aviation, rail, shipping and related commodities claims.
He is currently involved in a Ukrainian oligarch fraud dispute coming to a hearing in the autumn; is advising a major provider of Business Interruption Insurance who is not participating in the FCA Test Case; and is also advising on specific BI insurance claims. Two other current topical areas on which Stephen is advising are Nox and CO2 emission limits (and mitigating steps) and the design and construction of LNG vessels.
His 2019 saw him act in litigation which saw the unprecedented step of an appellate order for complete re-trial before a different Commercial Court Judge – undoubtedly a unique and trailblazing success, and justifying the warm praise he has received in the legal directories
The primary focus of Stephen’s practice is advocacy, but he is equally adept, and skilled, in his advisory practice, which is significant. With strong experience in the direction and conduct of long commercial trials and international arbitrations, he has proven his ability to assimilate and distil complex facts, and shows a mastery of difficult technical issues, lengthy examination of witnesses, tactical skill, and detailed and meticulous planning and preparation.
No less crucially, he is expert in interlocutory hearings and short appearances before first instance or appellate courts (which generally demand careful legal analysis, tactical appreciation and common sense).
He appears most frequently in the Commercial Court in London, in international arbitrations (SCMA, ICC, ICSID, LMAA, LCIA and other arbitration courts) and on appeal from these tribunals to the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Privy Council.
Increasingly, Stephen sits as an arbitrator, having received over 200 appointments in recent years.
He has also acted as an expert on English law in proceedings in various States of the USA and in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Singapore; and in international arbitrations.
He has also appeared in the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, in the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and in the Privy Council sitting in the Bahamas. Complex, long-running, substantial and technical on-shore and off-shore energy, rig, FPSO and shipbuilding litigation and arbitration, with the subject matter covering power stations, pipelines (sub-sea and land based), ships, rigs, FPSOs, facilities and equipment, through all stages from construction to decommissioning, involving expert evidence, in highly complex and time-consuming cases, with heavy factual and expert evidence.
As an example of the breadth of his practice, Stephen represented underwriters in a high value patent infringement insurance arbitration; a large construction company in a number of related disputes with insurers arising out of the construction and development of waste management facilities and the provision of waste-to-energy management services across northern England; and also appeared in the Privy Council representing directors in a shareholder dispute, demonstrating his equal skill with marine and non-marine disputes alike.
Stephen Hofmeyr has considerable expertise in oil and gas trading disputes, exploration and exploitation disputes and disputes arising from the shipment and carriage of oil and gas cargoes.
He handles cases relating to the sale, construction, financing, operation and insurance of onshore and offshore structures. These include pipelines (subsea and land based), cables, terminals and refineries, petrochemical plants, power stations (including nuclear and hydro-electric), drill ships, sub-sea drilling centres and rigs.
Stephen has wide-ranging experience of both on-shore and off-shore energy disputes: under-sea gas pipelines (Shell Gannet, CATS pipe-line system), under-sea cables (Jersey electricity, St Lawrence River), on-shore pipelines (Occidental Petroleum), refineries and petrochemical plants (Toulouse), power stations (Medway, Saudi Arabia) and rigs (P36, Goodwyn A Platform), He also has extensive experience of gas supply contracts.
He is vastly experienced at dealing with international Energy & Natural Resource disputes. During recent years, he has been involved in a number of very significant cases. In one example, Stephen led a large team in a gas pipeline ICC arbitration relating to the now abandoned South Stream pipeline which it was proposed should run from Russia, through the Black Sea to Bulgaria. This was a highly time-consuming and technical case involving issues of continuous casting, metallurgy, pipe manufacture, fracture mechanics, submarine pipeline systems, pipe laying, systems testing and quality control. The project was cancelled by Russia in December 2014 following obstacles from Bulgaria and the EU, the 2014 Crimean crisis, and the imposition of European sanctions on Russia. Other examples include the CATS pipeline, take & pay gas contracts and FPSOs.
For the past 33 years Stephen Hofmeyr QC has been involved in a plethora of disputes arising from most of the major problems which have given rise to large-scale claims in the world-wide insurance and reinsurance markets, including the internecine disputes in the Lloyd’s market in the early 1990s, pensions miss-selling, oil spills, the invasion of Kuwait, the collapse of financial institutions in the East, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the PA LMX spirals, political risks losses in Sierra Leone, Argentina, Thailand, Colombia, Turkey and Israel, Film Finance, the 9/11 US Terrorist attacks, piracy and ransom off the coast of Africa and the world-wide financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Reported cases are identified on the attached page.
He is currently advising a major insurer in relation to COVID-19 related business interruption insurance issues. More recently, his practice has encompassed a £400 million warranty and indemnity insurance claim; a claim involving the interaction between war risks insurance and cargo risks insurance, which involves the reconciliation of precedents set by the UK’s court of final appeal; complex and sensitive issues involving the aggregation of insurance recoveries following the 9/11 attacks; and complex areas of maritime insurance, which as can be seen below, he is an industry leader; and claims involving total loss under war risks, hull and machinery and all risks insurance.
Stephen has extensive experience in all areas of marine insurance law. His exposure to hull & machinery total loss claims is perhaps unparalleled at the Bar: beginning with Archagelos, in his first year of practice, the claims include The Italia Express, Kastora, Centaurus, Karin Vatis, Mineral Star, North Star, Starsea, Oceanos, Silimna, Kastor Too, Elli and a number of SRB claims (none of which have yet been litigated).
He also has extensive experience dealing with claims under most other varieties of policy: Constructors’ All Risks (Shell Gannet field, Felixstowe Harbour), War Risks (Dutch Dredgers, Piracy off Somalia and in the Nigerian delta e.g. Golden Lucy, Eagle and Motivator, war in Lebanon, Greek Fighter), Charterers’ liability, P&I and cargo.
He also has extensive experience dealing with wide-ranging reinsurance disputes. Most recently, he has acted for a market leader bringing claims for more than US$ 350 million under whole account excess of loss reinsurance protections spanning 7 years; for political risks insurers facing US$100m plus and US$25m plus expropriation claims; for the insurer of a football finance transaction; for a reinsurer of the South African Road Accident Fund; and reinsurance claims arising out of the Tioxide litigation.
He is regularly instructed in relation to coverage issues, allegations of non-disclosure and misrepresentation, “follow settlement” clauses, claims notification clauses, claims co-operation clauses, aggregation, subrogation, double insurance and reinstatement.
During recent years Stephen’s diet of general insurance has been as varied as ever: a US$50 million political risks insurance arbitration involving an insolvent telecommunications provider; a Constructors’ All Risks claim involving a land slip at a harbour development; material damage and business interruption claims arising out of mill failures at a South American mine; material damage and business interruption claims arising out of a warehouse fire; potential multi-million dollar claims arising out of Eskom power failures; an international bank’s potential public liability claim arising out of incidents of terrorism in Israel; the exposure of a drug company to an Israeli class action; and various professional indemnity and personal health claims. In addition, he regularly advises insurance companies on regulatory issues concerning proposed new insurance products.
Stephen also has wide-ranging experience of both on-shore and off-shore energy insurance risks: under-sea pipelines (Shell Gannett), under-sea cables (Jersey electricity, St Lawrence River electricity), on-shore pipelines (Occidental Petroleum), refineries and petrochemical plants (Toulouse), power stations (Saudi Arabia) and rigs (P36).
He has also litigated and advised in connection with aviation insurance hull and liability claims (Paris Concorde, Cessna, Milan/SAS), ground and airport risks (Birmingham City Airport) and personal accident claims.
He has also acted for assureds and insurers in Bermuda Form arbitration.
For the past 33 years Stephen Hofmeyr has been involved in a very broad range of shipping disputes, appearing in substantial Commercial Court trials as well as countless London maritime arbitrations. The subject matter of these disputes has ranged widely.
Many have been fact-specific, often with an emphasis on technical and expert issues: the construction of ships (including bulk carriers, tankers, chemical and product carriers, LPG carriers, pipe-lay ships) the operation of a particular vessel and its machinery, hull and machinery failures, the proper carriage of dangerous cargoes (such as DRI) and the safety of particular ports or berths. Other cases have raised complex questions of law, often arising out of bill of lading, charter or other carriage disputes. All have demanded a perceptive understanding of the commercial realities of international trade and shipping.
He is currently advising shipowners on Nox and CO2 emission limits, and mitigating steps.
Events in the world financial markets since 2008 have caused something of a resurgence of Stephen’s historic shipping practice. He has appeared in court and arbitration in a number of high-value shipbuilding disputes (involving chemical carriers, oil tankers and bulk carriers), MOA disputes (involving bulk carriers and oil tankers), bill of lading claims (involving a cargo which caught fire in the Bosporus, a DRI cargo, a rice cargo) charterparty disputes (“clausing” of bills, cancellation and termination), cargo and cargo finance claims and ship conversion and repair disputes (involving chemical carriers, pipe-laying vessels, a 96-berth passenger yacht and repairs carried out at shipyards in a number of different jurisdictions).
Stephen also has unique experience dealing with disputes involving the world’s largest mega-yachts, e.g. Lady Moura, Darius, Mayan Queen IV, Project Nato, Serene, Sapphire and the largest true sailing yacht in service, Royal Clipper.
Stephen Hofmeyr has always had an extensive international arbitration practice, appearing regularly as Counsel in arbitrations in London and abroad (in European countries, the Caribbean and the Far East). In addition, he appears regularly in important cases dealing with the substantive law of arbitration. Stephen also sits regularly as a commercial arbitrator in international arbitrations under the jurisdiction of the ICC, LCIA, LMAA and others. See Arbitral Appointments.
In addition to the shipping cases seen above, Stephen’s recent arbitral experience has shown him to be active in cases of both size and significance, whether regarding a US$ 600 million claim seen as fundamental to the industry from which it stems, to claims raising issues of non-performance, which involved a detailed analysis of the proper construction and application of contractual nomination and force majeure provisions, as well as energy sector work regarding a long-term supply contract. The claim is worth in excess of US$ 50 million. Whether in pure insurance, maritime insurance, energy law or complex contractual matters, he remains a silk of standing in this area, and well instructed.
Stephen has litigated and advised in relation to disputes concerning letters of credit (for use in international transactions), derivatives, currency swaps transactions and various aspects of FSA regulation.
Stephen Hofmeyr appeared before the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas on behalf of the Official Liquidator of a US$500m plus International Hedge Fund in a case which raised many important and some novel issues of banking, regulatory, mutual fund management and company law.
More recently, he represented the majority shareholder in a share sale dispute with a minority shareholder before the Privy Council in its inaugural sittings in Nassau. The case concerned the interpretation of a shareholder agreement embodied in a Consent Order and the valuation of the company’s interests in subsidiary companies. He has also appeared in a number of arbitrations and valuations in unfair prejudice cases where the shares in private companies have been the subject of valuation.
Stephen has also acted for Rangers Football Club in disputes with original and replica kit suppliers
Stephen is regularly retained to act both for and against professionals, especially – given his qualifications and experience – accountants, insurance brokers and solicitors.
Stephen has litigated and advised in connection with aviation hull and liability claims (Paris Concorde, Cessna, Milan/SAS), ground and airport risks (Birmingham City Airport) and aviation personal accident claims.
Stephen has extensive experience obtaining, resisting and dealing with injunctions and the arrest of ships. 2019 saw him obtain from the Commercial Court a series of freezing orders in favour of his ship-owning clients against the charterers of the ships and has resisted repeated attempts to have the injunctions set aside, in cases where very serious delays – and costs – had ensued – leading to a number of reported judgments: such instructions are typical of his practice.
As the Commercial Court in London is used by commercial people from around the world as their preferred centre for resolving disputes arising out of international trading and commercial relations, conflicts of laws issues arise almost daily. It is therefore unsurprising that conflicts of laws and jurisdictional issues have been a regular part of Stephen’s diet. In two recent matters Stephen has dealt with jurisdiction challenges sitting as arbitrator. In both cases he published awards which were not appealed.
Ecclesiastical Stephen has also done some limited Ecclesiastical law work. He successfully represented a clergyman on an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury against a decision of the Bishop of Southwark to remove the clergyman’s licence. He has also represented more than half a dozen clergy in Clergy Discipline Measure proceedings and has advised Bishops on various issues.
Disciplinary proceedings He has represented an individual insurance broker in disciplinary proceedings and has advised the Managing Director of a Managing Agent in connection with disciplinary proceedings proposed by the Council of Lloyds.
Stephen Hofmeyr QC is not only known for his considerable expertise in acting as Leading Counsel in domestic and international arbitrations but he also has a well-established practice as an arbitrator. His appointments cannot be described with any great particularity in view of the confidentiality of the process. However he is regularly appointed as sole arbitrator, party-appointed arbitrator or as the third arbitrator in a wide range of commercial disputes in ICC, LCIA, LMAA arbitrations and in other arbitration courts. In recent years Stephen has accepted over 200 appointments and has issued 18 awards as sole arbitrator and in excess of 20 awards as co-arbitrator. Stephen is a member of the London Court of International Arbitration, an Associate Member of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association, a member of the Baltic Exchange and, as an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, was a member of the Commercial Arbitration Users Programme Working Party. Until the scheme was discontinued, he was also a member of the SFA Consumer Arbitration Scheme Panel of Arbitrators and conducted numerous hearings as sole arbitrator. In 2015 Stephen became a member of the international panel of maritime arbitrators of the Marine Offshore Oil and Gas Association (MOOGAS) in Singapore and of the panel of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitrators.
Stephen Hofmeyr QC was born in Cape Town in 1956, educated at Diocesan College, Rondebosch, and matriculated with a First Class in 1973. His undergraduate and post-graduate degrees were taken at the University of Cape Town where he was awarded a Bachelor of Commerce in 1976 and an LLB in 1978.
In 1979 Stephen was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and went up to Oxford to read law, receiving an MA in Jurisprudence in 1982. He was also a rugby Blue.
He qualified and then practiced as a solicitor in Cape Town between 1983 and 1985.
Following a pupillage with Gavin Kealey in 1986, Stephen became a member of 7 King’s Bench Walk (7KBW) in 1987 and has practiced full time in these Chambers ever since. He took Silk in 2000, was appointed a Recorder (County and Crown Court Judge) in 2005 and a Deputy Judge of the High Court in the Queen’s Bench Division in 2008.
Stephen was admitted to the Bahamas Bar as Counsel and Attorney in 2005, as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Eastern Caribbean States Supreme Court in 2012 and as a Registered Foreign Lawyer in the Singapore International Commercial Court in 2015.
Afrikaans (fluent); and Dutch and Flemish (working knowledge).
7KBW publication – Carver on Charterparties, Second Edition
Stephen Hofmeyr QC – Piracy, The Evia No.2, The Ocean Victory and the incorporation of a charter “insurance code” into bills of lading
Stephen Hofmeyr QC – Defeats South Africa’s sovereign immunity claim against salvors of sunken 2nd World War silver
Court of Appeal orders retrial of civil fraud claim
Privy Council clarifies the nature and scope of the oppression remedy